The Center of the Universe

my piece of sky

Song From A Secret Garden by Secret Garden

On the other side of that window was a desk and that is where some of my most important thoughts — which to me were enormous life events — happened. Now the house stands abandoned, paint chipping away, having exhaled all the life it once held many years ago.

I watched a documentary about abandoned places once. A builder walked through the halls of a college somewhere in the northeast. There was no longer any funding from the state to keep the school opened, so they closed it, sold off all that could be salvaged, and left it a shell. He walked through, trying to determine whether or not something could be done with the building or if it would have to be demolished.

He said something that has stayed with me, about how when human life leaves a place, when there are no more people in a house or a store or an institution, something happens. It doesn’t take long for the place to start to fall down. I don’t know whether it will be by nature or by man’s intervention, but I don’t think it will be long before the house I grew up in falls to the ground.

The first time I shared this photo was in March of 2008. I called it “My Piece of Sky” in reference to the song from Yentl. The view from the other side of that window is limited. In the summer, leafy trees block much of the view, but in the winter when all the leaves are gone, you can look past their dark skeletons and see a tiny group of hills that lie to the north.

That room was my favorite place to be. If I wasn’t outdoors with my brothers, I could be found there, reading. Almost always reading. Or listening to music or writing. Sometimes a combination.

The room changed over the years. Coats of paint, new curtains, a different configuration of furniture. But there was always that vanity table turned desk sitting right there in front of that north facing window.

First it was those marbled composition notebooks. Filled to the brim with poems and stories and words I would never share with another soul. How many novels did I start in those things? Somewhere there is a Kool-Aid stained manuscript that I was awfully proud of at the time. Then a computer and floppy disks. And finally…the Internet. It was the first week of May 2000 and I was getting over pneumonia.

In The Time Traveler’s Wife, there is this theme of returning to one place. Henry (the time traveler) circles around through time landing in the field near Clare’s house in different years. You get a sense of why he shows up in certain places over the years, but it’s almost the end before you understand why this one place is so important. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the ending of this for you, so I will leave you with my impression of the whole thing.

For some people, there is a center of the universe — the axis upon which their world turns — the place where some of the most important moments happened. I think mine is that room, that desk, that chair. I know not everyone has the luxury of knowing a place like this. This room only saw my Act I. I don’t know where the next place is.

Here is an exercise for you — think of the one place in the world where you could stand and get the best view of your life. Where is it? Why is this the place? What are the things you can witness from this vantage point?

One Word

This past year it was steadfast. You really never know what shape these things are going to take.

Please, God, let lessons that are to be learned on this subject be gentle ones. Or give me the strength to endure them.

That prayer was very definitely answered.

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways. – Proverbs 4:25-26

I can’t speak much on this word in my life over the past year. Here is what I can say — I have spent a great deal of time being quiet and thinking. Turning my head and trying to keep my eyes straight ahead, fixing my gaze. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the paths my feet are on. I think the coming year is a big one and I can’t shake that feeling.

A meandering little trail led me to the word that I have chosen for 2013. It is not where I started out, it’s not where I thought I would be, but I am here now. I am content and I realize why. Let me share the word and the various definitions I hope this year molds into.

REACH

To try to grasp or touch something
To succeed in getting in contact with or communicating with
To succeed in having an effect on
To arrive at; attain

Then there is the one meaning that I was unaware of, that conjures up imagery that ties things up nicely and makes sense (even if it’s only to me).

The stretch of water visible between bends in a river

Isn’t that just perfect? Between bends in a river. My mind is a sea of metaphors.

How did I end up here? Well…

STEP FORWARD –> ACT –> PURSUE –> TRAVEL –> WONDER –> REACH

And when I hit that, I knew, all because of a lyric I misheard when I was 12. On Sarah Brightman’s “Time to Say Goodbye” album, she sings “No One Like You” (a melody I realized came from the movie Powder) and at the beginning of the track there is a shortened recitation of the William Morris poem, “October.”

October
by William Morris

O love, turn from the changing sea and gaze,
Down these grey slopes, upon the year grown old,
A-dying ‘mid the autumn-scented haze
That hangeth o’er the hollow in the wold,
Where the wind-bitten ancient elms infold
Grey church, long barn, orchard, and red-roofed stead,
Wrought in dead days for men a long while dead.

Come down, O love; may not our hands still meet,
Since still we live today, forgetting June,
Forgetting May, deeming October sweet?–
–Oh, hearken! hearken! through the afternoon
The grey tower sings a strange old tinkling tune!
Sweet, sweet, and sad, the toiling year’s last breath,
To satiate of life, to strive with death.

And we too–will it not be soft and kind,
That rest from life, from patience, and from pain,
That rest from bliss we know not when we find,
That rest from love which ne’er the end can gain?
–Hark! how the tune swells, that erewhile did wane!
Look up, love!–Ah! cling close, and never move!
How can I have enough of life and love?

I misheard “And we too” as “And reaching” and even though I have known the correct words for years, my original understanding remains at the back of my mind. This poem has been bouncing around in my head lately, so it was only appropriate for me to end up back at that word and scrawl it, with all its definitions, across the pages of the coming year.

OneWord2013_reach

50 of My Favorite Films — 5 & 4

5. Picnic
Millie Owens: When I graduate from college I’m going to New York, and write novels that’ll shock people right out of their senses. I’m never gonna fall in love. Not me! I’m not gonna live in some jerkwater town and marry some ornery guy and raise some grimy kids. But just because I’m a dope doesn’t mean you have to be.

Hal Carter: Listen, baby, you’re the only real thing I ever wanted, ever. You’re mine. I gotta claim what’s mine, or I’ll be nothing as long as I live. You love me. You know it. You love me.

Granny introduced me to Picnic right around the time I graduated from high school. It reminds me so much of my small town and life in a place that moves just a little bit slower. I guess because it takes place in Kansas. I really feel for Madge, the female lead in the film. She’s the oldest daughter and there are a lot of expectations thrown on her. People expect her to choose and know what she wants and have a very particular kind of life right out of high school. The film is a snapshot of the moment when she stands on the cusp — will she do what people expect of her? Or will she dive head first into the life she really wants? Sooo good.

4. The Sound of Music
Maria, these walls were not meant to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.

To this day, I still find myself humming “I Have Confidence” when I’m feeling nervous.

I was 7-years-old, sitting between my mom and granny, the first time I saw this musical. It was being performed by the high school vocal music students at my school. I was mesmerized by the songs. And for many years I thought the ticket to true love was to become a nun. Well… 🙂 I got over that part. This movie has meant so much to me over the years. I can pop it in and it instantly makes me feel better. Part of it does leave me longing for a simpler time in my life.

I split these last five films into two posts because the top three could be a tie. I flip flop all the time and it depends on the mood that I’m in, but the top three…they’re just it for me. I have a couple of “honorable mentions” that didn’t make it onto the list, so I’ll be getting to them soon.

If you missed any of the previous posts (and there are some good ones, so take a look):
10 – 6
15 – 11
20 – 16
25 – 21
30 – 26
35 – 31
40 – 36
45 – 41
50 – 46